This Ukrainian startup is spearheading war recovery with custom 3D-printed implants

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Oleksandr Gunaza is a dedicated software developer whose life took an unexpected turn with the onset of the full-scale Russian invasion. Before the chaos, Oleksandr was at the forefront of developing medical software for tailor-made implants. But when the war called, he answered and joined the army.

In May 2022, Oleksandr’s service came at a personal cost when a shell fragment struck him, breaking his jaw. His recovery, however, became a testament to his resilience and the subsequent work of a Ukrainian startup called 3D Metal Tech. The startup specializes in producing custom 3D-printed implants using special titanium that’s safe for surgical use, crafted to fit each individual’s body.

Thanks to one of 3D Metal Tech’s implants, Oleksandr made a full recovery. By October 2022, his face was fully healed, and he was back in action, looking as though nothing had ever happened. 

Since 2022, 3D Metal Tech has been providing these custom 3D patient-specific implants (PSIs) for free to war victims, sometimes saving limbs from amputation or restoring natural appearances.

In an interview with IT Logs, 3D Metal Tech’s CEO Yaroslav Holovenko elaborates on their mission to impact medical treatment through 3D printing technology, as well as their efforts to provide essential medical implants to those who need them most in times of crisis. 

Source: 3D Metal Tech

Yaroslav Holovenko: Patient-specific implants represent a modern and technologically advanced solution for bone reconstruction. These implants are designed based on the unique anatomical features of an individual patient. This means that each implant is specifically tailored to fit the patient’s needs and perfectly address his or her specific defect.

The process begins with a CT scan, based on which a detailed anatomical 3D model, including the defects, is created. Bioengineers then collaborate closely with doctors to design the implant.

This customized approach ensures that the implant fits seamlessly within the existing bone structure, maintaining the original contours and functionality of the affected area. This is crucial in facial reconstruction for two main reasons: functionality and natural aesthetics. By aligning closely with the patient’s original anatomy, these implants not only help preserve the natural function of the reconstructed bone area but also ensure that the aesthetics remain as natural as possible. For example, a patient who has undergone surgery can regain the ability to chew food by moving their jaw. At the same time it can provide the appropriate symmetry and proportions which are vital for a natural appearance. 

Aesthetically pleasing results from surgeries using patient-specific implants can also have significant psychological and emotional benefits because our face is also a big part of our communication and socialization. So, a natural-looking face can make a patient feel better about their appearance, which can improve their overall quality of life. 

It could be difficult to understand for the person who did not face any injuries which resulted in the distorted facial appearance. But such patients say that “people are staring”, “kids could get scared” etc. It is not because they are not polite or so, I am not a neuroscientist but I assume that it is somehow related to our natural instincts. When we see that something is looking not in the way we are used to it probably our brain pays more attention to it, to investigate it more accurately. Is it dangerous for us to not, or something like that?

In the case of the reconstructions of big tubular bones or joints, it is more about the proper functionality. Because the natural aesthetic of walking strongly depends on the proper function of the joint, the absence of pain etc.

One of the most inspiring stories that I can share is the story of Oleksandr. He was working as an IT specialist in a big international company and developing the exact medical software used for designing patient-specific implants for cranial maxillo-facial surgery. When the full-scale invasion started he joined the defense forces and after a few months was injured. One of the injuries was a mandibular defect. 

His colleagues designed an implant for him and we 3D-printed it. Everything was done free of charge. Oleksandr was able to return to his service fully recovered already in October 2022. 

A few months later when he came to Kyiv we met and recorded the video about his story.
We spend almost the whole day speaking and become friends. He is also passionate about motorcycles, so we agreed that whenever there’s a chance, we will definitely go for a ride together or travel somewhere. 

Oleksandr Gunaza

Using AI. It could help working with CT images and the designing process a lot. It could reduce the time of production of a single implant significantly. Unfortunately (or luckilly) we are not AI developers, so we will be waiting for the ready to use solutions on the market to incorporate it in our manufacturing process. 

The ongoing war in Ukraine has a profound impact on the growth and expansion plans. From one side, it is difficult to run the business in such conditions. On the other hand our product is very important for the recovery of injured soldiers and civilians. Our knowledge and skills are our contribution. So, it is a good coincidence that we started the company in 2020 and by 2022 already become the leading Ukrainian patient-specific implants producer. It is good to know that the company is delivering the best quality product available in the country.

3D Metal Tech team

Currently, the company is heavily focused on addressing immediate needs within Ukraine, which involves utilizing all available resources to meet the high demand for its products and services in the domestic market. The market for patient-specific implants in Ukraine has been experiencing rapid growth since 2020. Additionally, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of PSIs for treating traumas associated with war injuries.

Despite these challenges, the experience gained during this period is very valuable and could potentially strengthen the company’s position for future international market entry. 

One of the standout products that has been developed to an advanced level is the patient-specific implants (PSI) for veterinary application. This product is a prime candidate for international market entry due to its quality to price ratio. From the Ukrainian experience, it is evident that veterinary clinics using patient-specific implants and actively sharing information about their use and clinical results are growing quickly. More clients are drawn to these clinics because they are inspired by high-tech approaches. Additionally, the presence of advanced technology attracts skilled doctors who are eager to work in such innovative environments and learn something new. 

We assume the presence of the potential interest related to this product on the European market could be our opportunity to show what we learned.

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